Thursday, August 23, 2012

Peace and Violence Cannot Exist Together

 "No school violence, No sexual violence, no drunken violence, no racketeering or other organized violence" were the words painted on a number of police patrol cars seen recently by the priest-columnist writing on social issues for the Peace Weekly. What especially caught his attention were the words above the others: "Eradicating the five areas of  violence." They reminded him of the two placards he had seen over a school gate. "Violence Reported," one said, "Will Be Eradicated." The other, which he found extremely troubling, said "Week for Eradicating School Violence."

Students who are studying hard to do well in school, he pointed out, should not have to contend with school violence, as if it were a normal part of school life. All violence is the enemy of the State, but it should be doubly abhorrent when it takes place in a school environment.  Whenever violence in the schools is reported in the news, and it involves a suicide, the blame usually goes to the school authorities for paying little attention to what was happening, or for keeping silent or doing nothing to prevent the violence. What about the responsibility of the State? the columnist is implying.

Although a certain amount of violence by police and military personnel is accepted as inevitable by the State, violence in other areas of civil society is considered illegal.  However, violence can be cleverly packaged into a commodity, which is then legally bought and sold in the marketplace, as is evidenced by what routinely appears  on TV and in the movies. Violence, in its many less obvious forms, has been around for a long time, but society, for the most part, seems not overly concerned. In redevelopment projects and building new towns, for example, we have come to expect conflicts. One side promotes ownership rights, the permission to demolish existing structures to construct new ones; the other side argues for the right to residence. At a certain point in this conflict over 'rights,' it's the demolition that usually takes place.

These problems, whether with labor or with people forced to move from their homes, are not much different.  The police are not there to prevent the violence but are often criticized for taking sides. Labor-management autonomy is usually cited to justify the situation, but more like a referee who sees a foul and does nothing. Church teaching on violence (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church #488) however is very clear: "Violence has [now] made its appearance in interpersonal relationships and in social relationships. Peace and violence cannot dwell together, and where there is violence, God cannot be present."

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